Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bringing Literacy to Life at Gladys McDonald School

The last two years at Gladys McDonald School have been nothing short of ground breaking. The staff and students of this Kindergarten to Grade 8 elementary school have fully embraced the balanced literacy structure we know as The Daily 5.  Excellence for all is not an option ... it truly has become an expectation with the staff, students, parents, and community.

The following 2-part video outlines the journey that they have embarked upon in utilizing the Daily 5.  It clearly demonstrates the increase in student engagement, achievement, and success in both reading and writing with all of their learners.

Video One provides information on the following:
  • The Daily 5 and all of its components 
  • Teacher voices and perspectives on teaching and utilizing this structure in their classrooms
  • Watching the Daily 5 in ACTION in every classroom, Kindergarten to Grade 8

Video Two provides information on the following:
  • Use of the CAFE Menu 
  • Collaborative planning for use of Daily 5 
  • What is kept in a book box and how to I PICK a good fit book 
  • Use of the Teacher Pensieve 

If you wish to learn more, we invite you to contact the great staff at GMS to see how the Daily 5 has helped to bring "Literacy To Life" at Gladys McDonald school.  Principal Lori Daelick would love to set up a visit for you.

A special thank you to the administration and staff of GMS for sharing their journey with us.  It is easy to see that there truly are "No Excuses" when it comes to learning at Gladys McDonald School.
Everyone can and will learn! 

What does an arts education specialist know about teaching math?

When you hear the name Barbara Flaten-Orr, you may associate her with teaching music, dance, drama and visual arts at Regina Public Schools.  But math, not so much!  Well, you would be surprised at how Barb has taken to the subject since tackling different challenges in her teaching practice.  Using the structure of Explore +4, the grade 4 students and staff at École Centennial School make math instruction relevant, hands-on, personal all within a structured environment.

The lesson starts off in the 'Lesson Circle' where students, together with their teacher, have established norms on 'I Charts' that they refer to before and during every lesson.  These are reviewed throughout the lesson to ensure all participants, including the teacher, are on track and maximize their learning time together.
The 'I Chart' for MOMO, which stands for Math On My Own, is reviewed prior to sending students off to their work tables.  The students who are scheduled for their 'special learning' time with Mrs. Flaten-Orr go off to the small table for individual or small group instruction while the rest of the class work on their assigned tasks. Materials, manipulatives, white boards, whatever is required for the lesson is available for students to use. 
The teacher rings the bell chime once the time is up to bring students back to the Lesson Circle.  They then do a self-evaluation of the use of their time during that round, referring back to the I Chart for the established norms.  The teacher does bring the students back early if the I Chart is not followed by all participants.  The importance of sacred teaching time is reinforced so that all students have clear expectations before returning to their assigned tasks.

The MAF (Math With a Friend - this name was chosen by the students themselves) is a time when students work cooperatively with another student to reinforce concepts, practice strategies, problem-solve and have fun with the math they are learning.  The teacher is still having 'special learning' time with an individual or small group.  Since École Centennial School is an inclusive environment, this structure allows our integrated FIAP students to learn alongside their peers in a structured setting. 

Near the end of the period, students work together to gather materials, store notebooks/textbooks, manipulatives to return the studio to its original condition, ready for another arts education lesson.  Teachers working cooperatively have enabled the structure of the Daily 5 and Explore +4 to be a success in the classroom.  Student have clearly defined high expectations for learning and teachers can work in small groups to individualize instruction.  A win-win situation!

Awesome work École Centennial School Team!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Learning about other cultures - A grade 2 inquiry project

The grade two students in Trina Crawford's grade 2 class at École Hawrylak school have been working very hard to learn more about First Nations and Métis culture.  You can read about their experiences via Mrs. Crawford's blog.

Throughout the course of the year, Trina's students have learned a lot about First Nations and Métis culture within a variety of subject areas.  They invited me into the classroom to learn alongside them as they visited a school on the Poundmaker First Nation reserve via livestream.  You can access the video of that experience here.  Students were able to follow along as students from the school talked about their educational experiences and performed dances.  This helped to start some 'wonderings' in the students' minds.

Trina took advantage of the many kits available though Regina Public Schools and even had a tipi set up in her classroom. 

Students spent time reading stories, including the resource Turtle Island Voices, and are working on their vocabulary, sentence and paragraph building through a PWIM poster.  One moment that stuck out for me was the little boy who rarely speaks, very taken with Trina's choice of PWIM poster.  He shared his interest and connection with Pow Wow dancing and was so excited to share this with his teacher.

Because Trina has focused on First Nations and Métis content throughout the year and has woven it throughout her instruction and discussion, the inquiry project really did not have a starting point.  Students were able to create their 'wonderings' because of their background knowledge and also by drawing comparisons with their own lives.  Trina modelled this for the students with her own wonderings and supported the inquiry process by encouraging the students to work independently. 

She had her students come up with their own wonderings around what they hoped to learn about First Nations and Métis culture.  Each student created multiple questions to help guide their inquiry. 
Once the students had created their wonderings, the class had to decide what similarities and differences there were in their questions.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

As Legend Has It...

There was once a dedicated Gr. 4/5 teacher who wanted to engage young minds and improve student learning.  She was eager to try new ways to integrate all subject areas, differentiate instruction, provide flexible groupings for the diverse needs in her classroom, include aboriginal perspectives, promote inquiry learning, be accountable to the curriculum outcomes and use technology authentically. She welcomed peer collaboration and team teaching. She was willing to take risks and learn along with her students. She had a clear vision and destination in mind.

This is Mrs. Gerbascher’s story:   Walk With Me: A Literature Inquiry of FirstNations/Metis Legends.

Step 1-Planning from Curriculum Outcomes in ELA, Social Studies, Art and Treaty Education specifically focused on our First Nations/Metis culture and worldview.

Step 2 - Know the students. RAD and Fountas and Pinnel pre assessments were used to guide instructional reading levels, plan for differentiation and flexible groups.

Step 3 - Planning Formative and Summative Assessments. Designing evaluation rubrics linked to EAL outcomes in Reading and Writing. Daily observations, student- teacher conferences and evaluation of Reading Response Journals included.

Step 4- Collecting Legend Resources (student books in school library, from other schools, on line legends and literature kits from Central office)

Step 5- Introduction of the “Legend” Literacy Inquiry to students
What is a legend? What is the Author’s purpose? How are legends from other countries the same?

Step 6 -Model the process of an Inquiring Reader.

I Do. We Do. You do.  Visualize and be meta-cognitive. What are you thinking and wondering? 

Incorporate the Daily Five” Structure with guided reading instruction and independent learning.

Open the attachments below for more detailed planning and specific resources of Mrs. G’s “Walk With Me” Legend Inquiry. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Planning and Organization is the Key!

Posted by Starla Nistor [Superintendent of Student Achievement]

I recently had the opportunity to visit with Ashley Tarr, a grade 4/5 and 8 teacher at Ruth Pawson School. During our conversation she shared her planning for two units in math (Gr. 4 and Gr. 8) as well as an integrated unit for grade 4/5. I am so impressed with the organization and planning of our teachers and their work to promote student engagement and improve student performance. Special thanks to Shawna Stangel, consultant with RPS for her assistance with Ashley as well.

Below are the links to their planning:

Ashley also shared the pictures below of the visuals in her classroom using Explore +4

Explore+4 Management Board

Explore+4 I-chart


Math Word Wall

Another great example of excellent planning and organization, thank you for sharing Ashley!

F.W. Johnson ELA10 Backward Design Rubric Project

During the past few years, Kelsey Panko, Learning Leader and soon to be VP of F.W. Johnson, has been investigating and experimenting with ways to better connect curriculum outcomes to the daily activities and projects in her ELA courses.  During a meeting in October, we quickly realized that we share the same educational philosophy around assessment and evaluation. We decided to team up and dive into the ELA outcomes to backward plan some assessment tools for her grade 10 ELA course.

Our goal was to create rubric templates for practically any activity a teacher may do in class. This meant we would create templates that would allow assessment of specific outcomes, yet the tools/rubrics would be general enough to be adjusted to any teacher and various versions of projects, assignments or activities. For example, we wanted to create a rubric that assessed any presentation that included media, or a rubric that could assess and written inquiry task.

As detailed in the sample of the project below, we approached the task in a systematic way to ensure that, among other things, the rubrics would promote assessment as learning, use student and parent friendly language and result in many levels of achievement for each outcome, rather than one grade for a project or activity. A full rationale of the guiding principles and backward design steps is in the document below. Also included in the document is a backward planned inquiry unit with corresponding rubrics.

Implementation and Testing

Kelsey has been using the templates throughout the year, and, in fact, has engaged the students in adapting and rewriting the rubrics to match particular tasks. The students have been using the rubrics, too, to self and peer assess, writing their notes and comments directly on the rubric at different stages of the project. By the end of the unit, each student has a detailed history of the formative assessment they have received. As well, as shown in the rubric sample, students receive multiple levels of achievements for the project, one for each outcome address in the unit.

Next Steps

Kelsey is working with the grade 10 team at the moment sharing, collaborating and editing the rubrics for use in the next school year--the goal being the creation of interdisciplinary units and assessment rubrics. The rubric templates will provide consistency across subjects, teachers and courses. Watch for version 2.0 coming next school year!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Blogging with students

What should you blog about with students from a grade 7/8 class?

In thinking of ways to engage students in writing to express their ideas, using a classroom blog can be one forum used to achieve this. The question then becomes, what to blog about?

When students are passionate about a subject or topic, they are much more willing to take risks in their writing, share their opinions and give possible solutions to a problem. As teachers, we strive to enrich the classroom experience and further our students own abilities through guided discovery. While keeping outcomes and indicators as the focus of lessons, giving students choice and responsibility makes achieving these goals so much more effective, achieveable and relevant for them.

 What are you passionate about? What would you like to blog about?